Choosing sensible educational policies

There is a lot of pressure in America to give preferential university selection to minorities. This would proceed right up to to their proportion in the population in order to remove stereotyping them and thus restricting their career potential for the rest of their lives.

At present there are fewer African-Americans in university than perhaps there could be (13%) because their SAT scores (entrance exam) were about 20% lower than American whites. But these SAT tests correspond very highly with achievement in life whether university trained or not. To artificially increase the number of African-American students who scored even lower in their SATs would lower their average intelligence and increase their group cohesion at university. If anything, it would increase mutual animosity between the two ethnicities.

Yes, there is a lot of unnecessary stereotyping and prejudice against minority ethnicities in modern America but no more so than there were against Jewish immigrants and Chinese bond labourers 100 years ago. Both of those — whose parents normally respect scholarship — needed no assistance in getting into the most selective universities in much higher numbers than their proportions in the population.

Preferential selection is being pushed hard in Britain, too, but nothing to do with ethnicity this time but because of the low quality of state secondary schools in the poorer parts of the country which the better teachers avoid when they get the chance. Poor darker-skinned children of immigrants — whether Indian-, Pakistani-, Bangladeshi- or Caribbean-British — actually do far better at university entrance exams than white children with parents in the same low income range. What makes the difference is the parents’ attitude to education and how much encouragement they give to their children.

The key that supplies the answer in both America and England — there are relatively few immigrants in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland — are the subtleties of emotions and behaviours that each pair of parents automatically passes on to their children. This continues from one generation to the next. Biologists know this as epigenetic inheritance. Colloquially, it’s known as culture.

Preferential selection at university entrance level won’t succeed either in America or in England. What’s needed is adequate nursery and junior education to compensate for poor parental motivation and practice. This takes generations to change, so governments — and universities — will have to learn to be patient, even if they choose sensible policies for sensible reasons.

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